Unhealthy Alcohol Use Screening and Follow-Up

The percentage of members 18 years of age and older who were screened for unhealthy alcohol use using a standardized tool and received appropriate follow-up care if they screened positive. Two rates are reported.

  1. Unhealthy Alcohol Use Screening. The percentage of members who had systematic screening for unhealthy alcohol use.
  2. Counseling or Other Follow-up. The percentage of members who screened positive for unhealthy alcohol use and received brief counseling or other follow-up care within two months of a positive screening.

Why it Matters

Alcohol misuse accounts for more than 95,000 deaths per year in the U.S. 1 and is associated with a number of negative health outcomes and social problems. The exact cause of alcohol misuse is unknown, but many individual factors can increase the risk of developing a drinking problem. Alcohol misuse can begin at any age; however, early-onset drinking and the duration of alcohol use can increase development of a serious alcohol misuse issue2.

Treatment of alcohol misuse is currently focused on addressing alcohol dependency and not on at-risk drinking. However, the prevalence of risky drinking is much higher than that of more severe disorders. Heavy drinkers who have not had a “crisis” may not seek assistance with alcohol cessation if they do not perceive that their condition is severe enough. In general, people tend to wait until their condition is very severe before they seek medical assistance3.


NCQA published a special report summarizing HEDIS measurement year 2020 results for eight measures that leverage electronic clinical data, including this measure. This report can be found here: www.ncqa.org/ecds.


  1. Esser MB, Sherk A, Liu Y, et al. Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost From Excessive Alcohol Use — United States, 2011–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1428–1433.
  2. Brown, J.D., E.M. Witherspoon. 2002. “The mass media and American adolescents’ health.” J Adolesc Health 2002 Dec; 31(6 Suppl):153–70.
  3. Willenbring, M.L. 2014. “Gaps in Clinical Prevention and Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders: Costs, Consequences, and Strategies.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews 35(2), 238–43.

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